Diagnosing Premature Menopause
When diagnosing premature menopause, your doctor will first consider any of the typical menopausal symptoms you may be experiencing, such as irregular periods, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness. In some cases, however, the presence of symptoms alone may not be enough to diagnose premature menopause with certainty. In such circumstances, the doctor diagnosing premature menopause may order blood tests that measure certain hormone levels.
In order to diagnose premature menopause, your doctor will ask you if you've experienced the typical symptoms of menopause -- hot flashes, irregular periods, sleep problems, and vaginal dryness. Normally, menopause is confirmed when a woman hasn't had her period for 12 months in a row.
However, with certain types of premature menopause, these signs of menopause may not be enough for a diagnosis. In these cases, the doctor may order a blood test that measures follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Your ovaries use this hormone to make estrogen. The levels of FSH rise when the ovaries stop making estrogen. When FSH levels are higher than normal, you've reached menopause. However, your estrogen levels vary daily, so this test may need to be repeated for an accurate diagnosis to be made.
You may also have a test for levels of estradiol (a type of estrogen) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Estradiol levels fall when the ovaries fail. Abnormally low levels of estradiol are a sign of menopause. LH is a hormone that triggers ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary). If you have higher-than-normal levels of LH, it means you've gone through menopause.
(Click Premature Menopause for information about possible causes of premature menopause.)